Dec 09, 2019 2:51 AM

K-State to play Navy in Auto Zone Liberty Bowl

Posted Dec 09, 2019 2:51 AM

MANHATTAN, Kan. – Coming off an 8-4 regular season under first-year head coach Chris Klieman, K-State Nation is heading to Memphis as Kansas State officials announced Sunday that the Wildcats have accepted an invitation to play Navy in the 61st Annual AutoZone Liberty Bowl on Tuesday, December 31.


It will be Kansas State's second appearance in the Liberty Bowl, the first being after the 2015 season. K-State and Navy will square off for the first time in school history inside Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium with kickoff slated for 2:45 p.m., shown to a nationwide television audience on ESPN.


"We are excited to accept an invitation to play in the Liberty Bowl," said Klieman. "I am really proud of our team, especially our seniors, and our staff for continuing to work hard day after day and collectively getting better throughout the season. The story of the 2019 Wildcats still has one game left, and we look forward to spending the holidays in Memphis and preparing for a great Navy team in what will be an exciting Liberty Bowl."


The Wildcats (8-4) will be playing in their 22nd bowl game in school history and are back in postseason play after a one-year hiatus. The Wildcats have won two-straight bowls and three of their last five. They will be in search of winning three-straight bowl games for the first time in school history.


"I want to congratulate Coach Klieman and our football team and staff on a great regular season and getting our program back to a bowl game," said Athletics Director Gene Taylor. "We look forward to showcasing our football program and Kansas State University in the Liberty Bowl, and I know our fans are excited to show their outstanding support in Memphis while our football student-athletes, coaches and staff are provided a great experience."


K-State, which was predicted to finish ninth in the Big 12, ended the year in a tie for third place in the league standings, the biggest jump from a preseason poll since 2014 (TCU). The Wildcats also claimed the only victory among the four College Football Playoff teams this year when they upended No. 4 Oklahoma.


Kansas State raced out to a 3-0 start, highlighted by a 31-24 victory at Mississippi State, the Wildcats' first win inside an SEC venue in 12 tries. Following a pair of losses to open up Big 12 play, K-State came back with three more wins – a 24-17 triumph over TCU, a 48-41 upset of then-No. 5 and now College Football Playoff participant Oklahoma, and a convincing 38-10 win at Kansas.


The victory over the Sooners was the Wildcats' first over a top-five team in 13 seasons and the first over OU in Manhattan since 1996. K-State's win in Lawrence was its 11th-straight Sunflower Showdown victory to tie the Wildcats' own record for the longest winning streak in by either team in the series.


A pair of losses to Texas and West Virginia by a combined seven points – including one on a field goal on the final play of the game in Austin – preceded a pair of wins to close out the regular season as K-State won at Texas Tech, 30-27, before a 27-17 triumph over Iowa State on Senior Night, the Wildcats' seventh-straight home win over the Cyclones.


Navy, K-State's Liberty Bowl opponent, holds a 9-2 record prior to the annual Army-Navy Game this Saturday in Philadelphia. The Midshipmen, who were ranked No. 24 in the final College Football Playoff Top 25, finished with a 7-1 mark in the American Athletic Conference to tie for first in the West Division. It will be the first meeting between K-State and Navy, the sixth for the Wildcats against a service academy and the first since hosting Army in 1987. Kansas State is 3-2 all-time against service academies, going 3-0 against Air Force and 0-2 against Army.


--- K-State Sports ---

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Dec 09, 2019 2:51 AM
AP Source: Missouri hiring Appalachian State's Eli Drinkwitz

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Missouri reached an agreement Sunday with Eliah Drinkwitz to take over the Tigers’ once-proud football program, a person with knowledge of the hiring told The Associated Press, making Appalachian State’s successful coach the second-youngest in a Power Five conference.

The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the contract was still being drawn up and the school had not made an announcement. Drinkwitz was also being pursued by SEC rival Arkansas for its head-coaching vacancy.

Tigers athletic director Jim Sterk said he wanted to move swiftly in hiring a replacement for Barry Odom, the former player and assistant coach who went 25-25 in four seasons leading the program. Odom was fired after the Tigers finished an underwhelming 6-6, which would have been good enough for a bowl berth had the school not been slapped with a postseason ban by the NCAA following an incident involving a rogue tutor.

Drinkwitz will inherit a program that also must deal with scholarship and recruiting restrictions as part of the fallout.

When asked what he was searching for in the next coach, Sterk replied: “I think someone that brings a lot of energy and experience to the program, a leader, quality individual that has had success in leading a program or as a coordinator at a high level. Those are some of the some of the qualities.”

The 36-year-old coach is a considerable gamble for Missouri because of his scant head-coaching experience. Drinkwitz worked under Gene Chizik and Gus Malzahn at Auburn, Bryan Harsin at Arkansas State and Dave Doeren at North Carolina State, giving him plenty of experience from some of the best in the business. But his lone year in charge of a program — at any level, including high school — was this past season with the Mountaineers.

Still, the season was a spectacular success.

Appalachian State (12-1) rolled through its first seven games, beating North Carolina on the road, before stumbling against Georgia Southern. That wound up being the Mountaineers’ lone loss after they ripped off five straight wins, including one at South Carolina, and capped the run with a victory over Louisiana in the Sun Belt championship game.

It’s unclear whether Drinkwitz will coach the Mountaineers against UAB in the New Orleans Bowl on Dec. 21. He had signed a five-year deal with Appalachian State that paid him $750,000 this past season plus considerable performance incentives. The contract states that he will owe $425,000 for each year remaining if he leaves for another job, meaning a buyout of $1.7 million will be due to Appalachian State.

Odom signed an extension through 2024 last December that increased his base salary this past season to $3.05 million.

“We’re very excited about what we’re doing at App State,” Drinkwitz said after the Sun Belt title game, “but at the same time every opportunity, you know, I owe it to the family — my family — for my family to see what’s something that we’re interested in. But I’m not in any hurry to leave. I feel strongly that we’re building something special here.”

Most of the questions Drinkwitz fielded Saturday had to do with Arkansas, and for good reason: He went to Arkansas Tech, started his coaching career at a pair of Arkansas high schools, and later coached two seasons at Arkansas State.

“I don’t have a lot of answers for you right now,” he said. “I’m trying to process winning the first conference championship of my career, processing doing something that’s never been done before, and I understand that you all got jobs to do, and it’s going to be a crazy time, but the most important thing for me is just to enjoy the moment right now, and then we’ll figure it all out.”

Earlier Sunday, the Razorbacks hired Georgia assistant Sam Pittman to be its head coach.

Drinkwitz, widely considered a creative offensive mind, should stoke some passion from a Missouri fanbase that has grown tired of mediocrity to the point that attendance started to plummet this past season. And his hiring comes after reports that Sterk was interested in a series of candidates that included Army’s Jeff Monken, Louisiana Tech’s Skip Holtz and Arkansas State’s Blake Andreson — all with head coaching experience but none with what could be considered a high profile.

Odom was hired four seasons ago to replace beloved coach Gary Pinkel, who had not only built Missouri into a consistent winner but helped carry that success into the SEC. He appeared to be on the right track, too, taking the Tigers to a couple of bowl games. But things began to fall apart with a season-opening loss to Wyoming, and Sterk said upon Odom’s firing that the program had lost the “momentum” that had been built with a recent stadium renovation project.

Now, the Tigers are led by the second-youngest Power Five coach behind only Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley, and can turn their attention to rebuilding a program and fan base that has grown weary of scratching just to make bowl games.

--- Associated Press ---